Memo To My Girls 2018

Dear Emmy, Odessa, and Ren,

I went from monthly memos for Emerson and Odessa, to a memo every few months for Renley to now: one giant uber memo encompassing all three of you.

It's a give and take, people. Bloggity all day = no clean clothes or meals. 

That said, when I look back on all the musings I used to jot down, so much more frequently when I was a mom of one baby, not three, growing, independently minded small ladies-to-be, I'm so happy I took that time because I wouldn't remember a damn thing without those posts. 

Life is FLYING by. Maybe it's just my own habit of pressuring myself to make each day a productive one in some way, but the presence of constantly growing children really heightens this feeling of how fleeting life can be, and how quickly it progresses.

One moment you are rubbing balm on chapped breastfeeding nipples and watching entire seasons of Mad Men while pumping liquid gold into freezer bags, the next you're being asked questions about why the California license plate doesn't have any pictures on it or how come veins are blue. All of which I refer to The Good Doctor or the Google. One thing I've learned: apparently I know nothing about how anything works and other people seem to remember what they were taught in school or they just know stuff. I'm always like, "Hmm. Not sure. Daddy probably knows."

The one area of confidence I have, and I knock on wood as I dare to even type this and therefore commit it to reality and the Wayback Machine, I know how to teach you girls everything I have learned about how to navigate the world.

Not that I have all the answers or that I'm doing this 100% correctly, but I have so much knowledge stored up in this brain to share with you. Being a mom to you 3 is like being a mentor on steroids on meth on PCP. 

I want to teach you how to identify and hold on to good friends, female and male. How to deal with mean girls and other awful people you will encounter. How to put on eyeliner correctly. That you're supposed to curl your hair starting from the top, not the bottom (which I didn't learn until 2018.) How to work smarter, not always harder. How sometimes though, it is only hard work that gets you where you need to go and no one else can do it for you. How to be resilient. How to permit yourself to wallow and really feel the feelings and when it's time to say "Enough" and move forward. How to love yourself without apology while leaving room to see others through the most generous lens. How to be kind. Truly kind. How to know when you should be selfish. How to cope. How to be decisive and confident about what you choose. How to admit quickly when you're wrong. How to hold your opinions fiercely and let them go easily when faced with another viewpoint that makes more sense.

I was never like Daddy, 11 years old, shooting hoops and excited about when I'd someday teach my kids to play basketball. Maybe that was a function of being an only child or not really thinking about how to take care of others when I was younger or the time I babysat some neighbor boys and picked up a dinosaur full of stale pee that sloshed onto the carpet, but I wasn't really a parent/caretaker type growing up. 

I didn't think about you girls much until you actually came into the world, if we're being honest. I didn't read a single parenting book until Renley was born. Yeah, late to the party on that one. I kind of governed based on on instinct. And because I was lucky to have your father's steady, studied, anal, thoughtful parenting style to lean on, I didn't stress too much.

Now, nine years into this whole endeavor, I am coming to a series of revelations. 

Becoming your mom was transformative in every possible way. Not all at once, but it's easily the single most astonishing change I've ever undergone, including puberty. Which was...not all that major? I still didn't get hips until you guys came along.

Speaking of which, puberty will also be an interesting topic to talk to you about. By far Odessa, you've asked the most questions about front bottoms and back bottoms and the "string" you saw when you witnessed a boy peeing at pre-school. "What was that thing? Between his legs?" So far, the ole, "Boys and girls have different parts" has sufficed. 

But I'm ready. I'm easing into "The Talk" with a book we just picked up from Costco that I'm trying to strategically leave out for Emmy to read, then we'll see how this info trickles down. 

For now, Mother's Day still seems very much like a day to celebrate Asian Grandma and White Grandma.  I still don't really identify with being a "mother" in the way you might expect someone with THREE children to feel. I don't think I've quite earned the title. Yes, I have you amazing girls, but I've not put in enough work to consider myself a mother to celebrate with brunch.

Still, I did bring you onto the planet, and now that you're here I'm grateful every day, many times a day (except for around bedtime when I JUST WANT YOU TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND GO TO SLEEP) for your jokes and funny laughs and sweet sweet moments when you're so nice to Renley even though she's given each of you a black eye by slamming a tiny board book onto your face unexpectedly. True story. Each of you was book-battered within the space of 48 hours by a serial baby book batterer.

One moment she's smiles and coos and the next she's Darth Vader and merciless, grumpy-voiced and demanding whatever you're eating/playing with/holding or she will yank your hair as she sees fit.

That is a stage is she slowly outgrowing, but Ren has already been in more timeouts in 2 years of existence than both big sisters in your combined 15 years. 

Renley-you are so affectionate, talkative, and observant. You're like a little macaw who can repeat all sorts of phrases and complete sentences, generally at the right time, with a beak that can also snap a broomstick in half without warning. Cute but dangerous. You've earned the nickname Wreck It Renley for your love of destruction. The other girls liked to stack blocks and make things; you prefer to hurricane chop down their hard work and saunter off with nary a look back over your mullet covered shoulder.

You lavish kisses and hugs on Asian Grandma, only to look up and ask in your most adorable voice, "Watch Elmo?" Once the iPad is set, you dismissively instruct her, "Go back to your kitchen." WTH. How have we created this tiny monster?

But you are a snuggler through and through. You love to pull up the comforter and put your head on the big pillow and squinch your eyes closed to pretend you can sleep in the big bed. You love to command us to "Tickle me!" while raising both arms high above your head. You're a pro at doing your modified macarena while singing "Bum didda bum didda bum didda bum didda heyyyy Macarena."

You can say your L's if we really practice first with la la LOLLIPOP but most of the time you subsitute the Y sound instead, so "Look at me!" is "Yook at me!" and "lion" is "yiiion." Your favorite word is still "MINE!!!" 

You kind of don't know what you're talking about 20% of the time but you kind of do a legit job of faking it and joining in the conversation by repeating whatever the last person said. 

You love to call Daddy by his first name, especially in public, where you like to give a friendly wave to certain strangers and introduce him from your perch in the shopping cart. You also like to point at random white men in the grocery store and loudly say, "That's DADDY!" You will also say all bearded men are Uncle Mike. #allwhitemenlookalikesyndrome

Still comfy in your crib, where we plan to keep you for as long as possible, and still napping. "I wake up. I wake uuuuuuuppppp. All done. I'm awaaaaaaaake. Where are youuuuu." It's a little Jack Nicholson from The Shining but that's our cue to pick you up in the mornings and afternoons. 

You're very aware of the daily shift changes in who takes care of you. Weekday mornings you want Mommy to "Hold me, hold me," until it's time for me to leave. Then you're great with being transferred to Asian Grandma, "Bye bye" no tears. Post bath, you want me to dry you off and put on your pajamas. Weekend mornings, you're calling for Daddy by his first name to come get you. 

Any deviations from the routine are met with anger and fury. You are what they would call a Terrible Two cut straight from the mold. It sucked because you started early as a Wicked One, as the girls put it. 

Full on tantrums and crying for no reason other than I wouldn't give you all of the chocolate chips for breakfast or someone dared to give you a broken cracker instead of a whole one. Fortunately we know you'll live so I try not to let you turn all of my hairs gray at once. Best way to pull you out of the depths is by fast talking and telling you stories or reminding you what we did during the day or what we're about to do. You love to listen to explanations and verbose, simplified and overly exaggerated descriptions of everyday life. 

You just started preschool this year. Still some tears a few weeks in, but you love to paint and eat snacks and push the baby strollers around and you already know all your teachers' names. Endless talking and you're so jaunty. You're already in underwear most of the day except for naps. Chocolate chips and dehydrated strawberries as your potty reward. Heart melter when you pull us in close and say "I yuv you so much."   You're a keeper.

Odessa. First grade, for reals? Last night you literally said, "I think Ping Chang* is in love with me." To which I had to will my eyebrows to stay down and casually follow with a, "Mmm really, why do you say that? "Because of how he looks at me." I AM SO SCARED RIGHT NOW. Apparently this Ping Chang is a gallant boy who has said, "Stop that" to some other overactive boy when he gets into Odessa's space. Obviously he must be in love with her. #OdessaLogic. Also, where does she even get these concepts?

Again, as Renley likes to say, "I scared!"

You're a newly minted yellow belt Taekwondo kicking, board breaking, Yes Sir No Sir strong as ever person. Six years old and so resolute. Lots of deep thoughts going on, with musings like, "Deep down inside I know I'm going to pass my yellow belt test. But even deeper down I'm nervous I won't."

Or, "Sometimes I choose things then I feel bad that I chose them." Which I responded to with a lesson on regret and why it's a feeling you should try not to hang onto and how I am pretty good about not regretting things because there's nothing I can do about them except learn and move forward and then you interrupted with, "Well I'm not you." And I had to laugh.

You're not me but your mind works a lot like mine it seems. You're stubborn and self-reliant for entertainment. You're a doer. You're juggling middle sisterhood well, because it's hard to have a sweet and capable older sister who seems to do everything just a little more skillfully (because she's almost years older than you) and a small and tyrannical younger sister. 

Sometimes you say things about not liking yourself or wishing you could be like fill-in-the-blank. I don't know where any of that comes from, but I try not to freak out too much. I think you're just extremely hard on yourself.

But you're also brimming with confidence about certain things and you naturally attract a following wherever you go. Hence, my bewilderment with some of your self-loathing comments that just don't jive with how you exist in the world.

You make things so interesting and funny in this family and we are always grateful for it.

Emerson. 9 years old and such a stunner. Your art and organizational skills would wow Marie Kondo. Ever since you read those books, I hear a lot of questions about whether my stuff sparks joy. YES EMMY IT DOES NOW WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF. Oh wait, your room is spotless while my closet is a blast zone. 

A better big sister we could not ask for. So gentle and kind with Renley, despite her ravaging your neatly arranged room on the daily. It drives you to tears sometimes when she's hurricaned your doll's closet yet again and left carnage strewn all over your floor. 

Speaking of tears, you still have a tenderness that your pre-school teachers identified way back when. If you don't get the right answer on a spontaneous multiplication question right away, you're quick to get emotional. Is it a hint of your inner perfectionist? Whatever it is, I want to figure it out and help you reinforce and harness that reaction. The world is tough and tears are ok but save them for the pillowcase, not the kitchen when Daddy's checking your math memory.

I think some of it comes from the fact you're super sensitive and you have an EQ that seems off the charts. I rarely have to give you a side eye about reading a situation--with adults or kids. It's uncanny. I just don't want that sensitivity to make you too vulnerable. 

You're playing piano and bball and you love to draw. You and Odessa are huge into books and that's generally what you're doing if you're not playing "Mommies and Babies" with your 27 jillion stuffed animals. 

You're heading into 4th grade like a boss. You have a sweet and interesting group of friends who spend recesses doing backbends and random gymnastics. I'm so impressed with your inner confidence when it comes to knowing yourself and what you're about. I pray we can keep building on that because I've already seen some of the ways girls hurt each other. #sharpobjects

All three of you: I am astonished and beside myself all the time when I take stock of who you were, are, and will become. I promise to always be my best for you. 

Love,

Mama

*Name altered to protect the innocent

Photo: Jay Tsai Photography

Vicky NguyenBloggity, Memo